As you may know, however, since Tracey Thurman's landmark case, many courts have taken a different view and have ruled against battered women. For example, when Nancy Watson sued Kansas City, her abusive husband, Ed Watson, was already dead by his own hand. After Ed had forced his way into Nancy's home in January of 1984 and raped, beat, and stabbed her, she escaped through a picture window. Ed Watson, a police officer himself, fled and then killed himself.
Nancy Watson filed a suit claiming, as Tracey Thurman had, that the police had violated domestic-violence victims' rights to equal protection. In her 1983 lawsuit, Nancy used Kansas City police records to point out that 31 percent of the perpetrators in non-domestic assaults were arrested. But, in domestic assaults, only 16 percent were arrested. In addition, Nancy said, this trend discriminated against women, since women constitute up to 95 percent of the victims of domestic assault.
The district court ruled in favor of the city and police on every score, but an appeals court reversed part of the decision. The appeals court said Watson could proceed with her claim because she had enough evidence to show that the police policy on non-arrest in domestic assault cases resulted in her being treated "differently." But, the court continued, Watson "had failed to present any evidenceâ¦that a policy which discriminates against victims of domestic violence adversely affects women." Even if Watson could prove that, the court said, she also would have to prove that the police purposefully adopted the policy to discriminate against women.
As you know, the law has created even more obstacles for battered women seeking their constitutional rights since Nancy Watson's case. And by the time a movie of Tracey Thurman's story reached the television screen in 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court had once and for all snatched the legal rug from under battered women with a landmark ruling in a child-abuse case. This child abuse case, Joshua DeShaney, (da-shan-nee) was based on due process, not equal protection, as Tracey Thurman's has been. But, in later cases the DeShaney decision would be used to block the claims of battered women brought under either provision, due process or equal protection, of the Fourteenth Amendment.